Steven J. Daniels, a veteran from Oregon City, spent hundreds of days aboard a nuclear submarine in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans while serving in the U.S. Navy from 1966 to 1972.
That experience is serving Daniels well today as he travels throughout the state promoting an upcoming event that will be one of the most memorable in its military history — the commissioning of a nuclear submarine in Oregon’s honor.
The submarine, the USS Oregon SSN 793, is being built in Groton, Connecticut, where it is set to be christened in the fall of 2019. It will be the first submarine and only the second naval vessel ever named for Oregon.
Daniels recently visited La Grande where he promoted the USS Oregon. He is a member of the vessel’s Commissioning Committee that is raising funds to pay for the commissioning ceremony of the new submarine.
The naval veteran said his experience serving on a nuclear submarine helps him connect with people as he tells them about the USS Oregon.
“Everybody wants to know what it is like on a submarine,” said Daniels, who served on a nuclear submarine, the USS Nathan Hale SSBN 623.
Daniels said people often ask what can be seen outside windows in a submarine. They are surprised to learn submarines have no windows. He said windows would serve little purpose because conditions are so dark deep below the surface of the sea.
The veteran said life aboard a Navy submarine is stressful because of the demands of the job. Crew members must be ready at any time to take on emergency duties, even in matters outside their area of expertise. In addition, crews must become accustomed to confined spaces, but Daniels said steps are taken by the Navy to keep up the spirits of crew members. Movies are shown, and the meals on Navy submarines are excellent.
Daniels said “the food is a morale booster” that will benefit the USS Oregon’s 140-person crew. The vessel is 377 feet in length and 34 feet in diameter, and it weighs 7,800 tons. The submarine will be able to operate at a maximum depth of 800 feet and travel at a top speed of 25 knots, and its armament will include 12 Tomahawk missiles.
The submarine will be powered by a highly efficient nuclear reactor. Daniels said the nuclear reactor is so efficient the submarine will not need to be refueled during its life span, which is expected to be about 35 years.
The submarine will make its own oxygen with an oxygen generator. The machine, via electrolysis, pulls oxygen out of water. There will also be a oxygen “scrubber” that will clear the submarine of gases.
“(The submarine) will produce its own environment,” Daniels explained.
The USS Oregon, like all nuclear submarines, will be able to remain submerged indefinitely because of its power source and oxygen generator.
“The only thing that will limit how long it can stay under is how much food it has (to feed the crew),” Daniels said.
During the christening this fall in Connecticut, the vessel’s designated sponsor, Dana Richardson of Corvallis, will break a bottle of champagne over it. The submarine will then be symbolically lowered into the waters of the Atlantic. Later, test runs will take place over a 12- to 14-month period to make sure the USS Oregon is in proper working order, after which it will be officially commissioned.
All of the expenses for the commissioning ceremony will be covered by funds raised by the Commissioning Committee, Daniels said. The funds will be used for items including plaques for each of the USS Oregon’s crew members, a pre-ceremony breakfast and a post-ceremony reception. Daniels said the committee hopes to raise about $200,000.